Thailand is one of my favourite places to visit for my holiday.
Twenty old years ago, not too many people would consider vacationing, living or retiring here, but as of now. Thailand is no longer off the beaten path as its popularity among foreigners fit all budget and lifestyle. From backpackers, budget-minded people, couples, young millennials, retirees, travel lovers to the high rollers seeking the ultimate 5-star treatment or anyone who seeks 5-star treatments without going broke.
There is something for everyone here.
My definition of a tourist trap is a place that is catered to and attracts foreign tourists for making money. Tourist traps provide services, food, souvenirs, attractions and other products for the only purpose of making money from tourists. Tourist traps attract massive hordes of crowds and often lack the authentic Thai experience.
With that said, here are my top 6 tourist traps in Thailand. Along with the alternative attractions, in case you visited one of Thailand’s tourist traps, and they turn you off.
Tourist Traps #1
Khao San Road, Bangkok
This is also known as the world’s backpackers district. Khao San Road is touristy; however, that doesn’t mean it is a bad thing to many people.
If you are seeking a place to connect with other fellow travellers around the world. You want to catch up on each other’s stories over a few cheap drinks, Khao San Road is the perfect place for that. However, if you are looking for an authentic Thai experience. Khao San Road might not be the best spot.
It is full of bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, hostels, cheap hotels, fried insects and other interesting sites. A place for young travellers to party, if that’s your thing, then this place is for you.
However, if you want to get away from an overcrowded place, loud, touristy, full of partying people. Avoid Khao San Road as it can feel like a riot sometimes.
If your requirement is being able to mingle with plenty of travellers aka tourists without having a red light district in the neighbourhood. Khao San Road is your only alternative.
There are alternative areas to Khao San Road, but those would have more Thais and few tourists. If you are an adventurist, try visiting the other streets near Khao San Road like Soi Rambuttri, Soi Chana Songkhram, Phra Arthit Road, Victory Monument or the Sois off Samsen Road. Those would have fewer tourists and more Thais.
Tourist Traps #2
The Grand Palace, Bangkok
This attraction would be on everyone’s itinerary when visiting Bangkok. The Grand Palace contains different shiny temples with intricate patterns from top to bottom. It is the country’s most famous landmark for a reason.
For over 100 years from the 1700s, it was home for the previous Kings and the Royal family. However, today it is a place for worship and a tourist attraction.
The palace is always filled with tourists as well as Thais; it is busy at any time of the year.
Honestly, you should not miss this. At least visit it once and take your time sightseeing the beautiful architecture because there is not many like it. If you want to learn more about its history, hire a tour guide to walk you through. Although a guided tour can be pricy, it is worth the money to understand the culture and magic that created it.
Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho)
This temple is a perfect place for 1-2 hours visit. It is not as crowded, and the atmosphere is very peaceful. The entrance fee of 100 baht, which I think is reasonable for such a beautiful place. Wear long clothes and don’t forget to bring a camera!
Tourist Traps #3
Chiang Mai Old City, Weekend Night Markets & Nimman Road
Chiang Mai City is a popular tourist destination in the kingdom. Tourists are drawn to the region for its’ beautiful, ancient temples, cultural attractions, authentic Thai food, cool climate, ethnic diversity, and natural beauty. However, if you are seeking a quiet place, you may want to avoid the city center because it appeared to be overrun with partying tourists and expats.
As for the famous Weekend Night Markets was just chaos. It was crowded to the point I had to walk like a penguin at some spots. The Weekend Night Markets are a pleasant experience during my first visit. However, I could not enjoy shopping because I was constantly bumping into someone. The experience was good for first-timers, but after that, I could live without revisiting it.
Also, the night market and Nimman Road, to me are big tourist traps. No local people seem to shop or go there, which I can understand after visiting.
Back in the 80s and ’90s, Chiang Mai was your ordinary small Thai town, with only a few hotels, a few fancy restaurants and tourists. However, over the years it has grown to be a big tourist trap with brochures everywhere you go. Hop on a tuk-tuk, the red truck, more brochures. Walk down your hotel lobby, walk to get a haircut, it’s hard not to see any brochures or Tripadvisor stickers.
You can go outside of Chiang Mai and find much less touristy places. I enjoyed the city itself, the markets are great but they were very crowded, and there are all sorts of tourists. The temples are lovely too and just wandering around has a nice vibe.
Chiang Rai is also an excellent alternative, about 4 hours’ drive north. Chiang Rai’s Weekend Markets are full of locals, and maybe less than 10% are tourists during my stay.
If you are adventurous, check out Chiang Sean, Chiang Dao and Doi Mea Slong.
Tourist Traps #4
Pattaya is a tourist trap of a different breed. It caters to every guy’s wildest dreams, a Disney land for single guys and a trap that can be very hard to escape for many. Pattaya is best known for its adult entertainment, bar girls, GoGo, discos, beer bars, massages including a happy ending.
Although, many of the people who work and live there are local Thais. But the atmosphere and attractions are mainly dedicated to tourists seeking what I mention.
If you are on a family holiday or you are seeking real authentic Thai experience, definitely don’t come here, especially in the city along the beach.
Although Pattaya is not the best spot for your Thailand family holiday, however, there are some family-friendly attractions.
Koh Larn is one but can be crowded as it is still near Pattaya.
Koh Samet, which is about 1-2 hours drive to the next city in Rayong.
Perhaps Koh Chang is also a good alternative and if you want to get away from the hordes of crowds. Check out, Koh Mak.
Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Pattaya to Hua Hin or Cha Am, which are more family-friendly.
Tourist Traps #5
Thanks to Leonardo Dicaprio, who made this beach famous in the early 2000’s Hollywood movie. Maya Beach is now an overly famous destination among thousands of tourists.
Reportedly, this beach can see up to 6,000 tourists each day, travelling by speedboats from a nearby resort island, Phi Phi island.
With its beautiful clear blue water perfect for snorkelling with swim-friendly depths. Together with powder white fine sand, making it easy to see why so many tourists visit here.
What once a paradise beach, until the endless hordes of speedboats blocking the view and countless tourists showed up. It quickly became packed with tourists and seemed almost overrated.
It doesn’t feel or look like paradise with that many tourists, and it can kill the feeling of that moment we’re all looking for.
Maya beach is overly crowded to the point tourists were destroying the beach’s natural ecosystem. As a result, the Thai authority decided on Oct 2018, and onward, Maya Beach will be closed from tourists until further notice.
The ecosystem and the beach’s physical structure have yet returned to its full condition,” said the letter, in Thai. Adding that they would extend the closure from October onward “until natural resources return to normal.
Here are some alternatives to Maya Beach.
Koh Lipe, Thailand
Loh Moo Dee Bay
Tourist Traps #6
Phuket as a whole, especially in Patong, I believe it is overpriced and overrated.
It’s okay if you go there for a short holiday, but it can be crowded depending on the region of Phuket.
For Phuket alternative, check out what I said about the alternatives in Maya Beach.
What other tourist traps you think I did not mention in Thailand? Leave your comment below.